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Understanding the new Georgia Voting Laws

As of March 2021, Georgia passed the “Election Integrity Act of 2021.” This new act serves as a means to change how elections are run in the state.

As of March 2021, Georgia passed the “Election Integrity Act of 2021.” This new act serves as a means to change how elections are run in the state. This is due to the impact the coronavirus had on the election this past November. Mail-in voting was the option offered for those uncomfortable to vote in person due to the pandemic. 

The number of mail-in voting ballots was overwhelming which left many questioning the legitimacy of the election results. Since this act is considered a massive piece of legislation, proponents and opponents of the bill are focusing on different sections of the law, but there are many that voters might have missed.

Voters in Georgia will be impacted by a majority of the changes that are now in effect. 

How will voters be affected by the new election laws?

For starters, mail-in voting will look a lot different. Back in the November general election, roughly 1.3 million people used that method instead of going in person. New policies are in place for mail-in voting which covers voters over 65 with a disability, military personnel, or those overseas in the military. Those individuals are still eligible to apply once for a ballot. They should receive one for the rest of an election cycle. To keep up with the changes, the earliest voters can request a mail-in ballot will be 11 weeks prior to the election. The purpose of this modification is to cut the time from the previous 180 days to request a mail-in ballot, to less than half as much time. 

Absentee Voting

In order to decrease the number of rejected ballots for coming in late another deadline is in place. You must complete an application and return it two Fridays in advance of election day. When you request and return a ballot, new ID rules are required as well.  You must present “either your driver’s license number, state ID number or if you don’t have those, a copy of acceptable voter ID.”

In addition, secure absentee ballot drop boxes are now officially part of the state law in Georgia. Drop boxes were used as an issued emergency rule process due to the coronavirus pandemic and will now remain in effect.

Changes to early voting

As mentioned earlier, this is one of the biggest changes to the law. The expansion of early voting would be enforced for most Georgia counties. In the stages of early voting, it is mandated that all counties publicly report daily totals of how many people have voted in person, how many absentee ballots have been distributed, returned, accepted, and rejected. 

Changes to voting counting

The biggest complaint from the 2020 general elections focused on how long it took for certain counties to release their final vote totals. Questions were raised and confusion ensued on how others missed batches of ballots and why the process was not over on election night. 

A change through the Election Integrity Act of 2021 states that local officials must report total numbers of ballots cast, early voting, absentee voting, and provisional ballots, by 10 pm on election night. All absentee ballots will be checked using the ID information voters write on the outside of envelopes as opposed to their signatures which has ceased from the previous policy.

Other Changes to the Voting Law

“There are other more intangible changes that will not directly impact how you vote.” 

This describes further that a hotline will be set up for people to file complaints. Complaints may range from a variety of topics like voter intimidation and illegal election activities. Anonymous tips are also accepted through the hotline. It is then in the hands of the Attorney General’s office which will be reviewed in no more than three days. 

After which, it will be determined if further investigation of the complaint is necessary.  Consequently, the State Election Board and the secretary of state’s office are not allowed to make any settlement agreements without first notifying lawmakers.

Aspects of the Law go Into Effect July 1

There are a handful of aspects of the law that will take effect on July 1, including the following:

  • Nonpartisan elections will require the creation of special ballots
  • Ballots will be required to be printed on security paper and in black and white ink
  • Mail-in ballot applications must be submitted no less than 11 days prior to the primary election, general election, or a runoff election
  • Absentee ballots must be issued no less than 25 days prior to a federal primary election, a general election, or a special election or no less than 22 days prior to a municipal general election or primary election
  • When submitting an absentee ballot, a driver’s license number from a Georgia-issued ID must be on the outside of the ballot. It must also include the date of birth of the voter, and either the last four digits of their social security number or some other approved form of ID
  • New conditions begin for rejecting absentee ballots if these new requirements are not met

The remainder of the new voting law goes into effect on upcoming dates.

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